Braid

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Jonathan Blow seems to divide the gaming world in one group that thinks he’s a messiah and another that just think he’s a complaining loudmouth. I personally think he qualifies for both groups based on which interview/column/presentation of his you read, but even those who dislike him fully don’t neglect that his game Braid is something special.

Braid is a puzzle-based platform game centered around manipulating time; In a way you could say it is to time-based puzzles what Mario Galaxy was to gravity-based gameplay – it has been touched upon before but no game revolves around it to this extent and does it so well. You control the character Tim that can rewind time indefinitely to solve puzzles, along the way you reach new ares where doing so has different secondary effects that you need to use to solve puzzles. It actually reminds me a lot of Logigun in the gameplay, progression model with new skills and in the sense that the solution is never obvious at first and while sometimes you might think you need quick reflexes this is only because you have yet to find the correct way of tackling the puzzle.

Blow likes to say that Braid doesn’t compromise and contains no fillers; and while this is a claim people usually don’t live up to it’s mostly true. All of the puzzles have some unique challenge about them and since you can rewind time as much as you want, there are very few places where you actually have to restart a level when you realize you have made a mistake. This makes the game rather short, but I assume Blow’s target audience prefers condensed fun; I certainly do.

Presentation-wise, Braid really stands out as David Hellman‘s graphics manage to look like a moving, living painting without compromising the clarity of the game components, it looks good in screenshots but is really stunning in motion. The sound and music sets the mood quite well and helps keeping you immersed by following the strange movements of time in the game, although this can become slightly annoying at times. Braid also has a rather nice story although it is only told in text segments between the levels and is mostly disconnected both from the gameplay and the audiovisual style.

The same year Aquaria took home the IGF grand prize, Braid took the Design Innovation award and having played both I have to admit this makes a lot of sense. The games themselves are not very similar but their respective development processes more so; both of them had most of the development done by two people. Granted, development time was long and budgets were very large for two-man projects, but it’s always nice to see that there’s room in the games industry for really small teams to make really good commercial games.

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Posted on Sep 05/08 by Saint and filed under Reflections | No Comments »